“ The future of the state lies with reds that have far more in common with the wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy than they do with those of California.”
Merlot has always been a problematic grape, reaching its peak of perfection in very few sites, but in Washington, many of the wines made from this grape have approached perfection.
The very best examples of Washington Merlot come from the Columbia Winery, Gordon Brothers , The Hogue Cellars, Leonetti, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest .
Washington Merlot wines are soft and sensual; rich and supple, sometimes bordering on opulence; and many have a charming "fruitcake" bouquet.
Washington Wine County
Washington Wine County
Location same latitude (46ºN) as of Bordeaux and Burgundy.
A variety of climates, soils and long summer sunlight hours create prime growing regions. Washington wineries benefit from grapes ripening with about two more hours of summer sunlight each day than in California wine regions. Climates of individual Washington wine regions differ dramatically.
Crosscut north to south by the Cascade Mountains , Washington State is more mild and lush to the west than the lands to the east.
In fact, 98% of the state's wine grapes are grown within three Washington wine regions (appellations) on the east side of the Cascades -- the Yakima Valley wine region , the Walla Walla wine region and Columbia Valley wine region .
The enormous rain shadow of the volcanically active Cascade Range creates an arid climate and conditions that permit grapes to fully ripen and develop complex fruit flavors, along with pleasing aromatics and nuances.
Number of Wineries 2001 - 170 1999 - 144 1993 - 80 1981 - 19
Vinifera Acreage 2001 - 29,000 56% Red 44% White 1993 - 12,000 36% Red 64% White
Leading Varietals Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Syrah, Sémillon, Cabernet Franc
Walla Walla Wine Country
The most remote of all Washington State wine regions.
Setting the standard for Northwest winemaking, especially when it comes to Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons (31 wineries).
The geologic past of the Walla Walla Valley is riddled with cataclysmic event Enormous basaltic lava flows 15 million years ago established the foundation of the Columbia Plateau.
Beginning about 15,000 years ago, periodic melting of ice dams caused giant "glacier outbursts" every 35 to 55 years. The "Channeled Scablands" of today's eastern Washington are the result of these phenomenal floods, documented as the largest in geologic history. Geologically speaking, ancient geologic catastrophe has set many a stage for some of the best winegrowing regions of the Northwest .
Yakima Valley Wine Country
Some say these it will be the nation's next Napa Valley (30 wineries).
More than 90% of the state's wine grapes are grown within the enormous Columbia Valley, and a large percent of its vineyards are located in the Yakima Valley.
A system of canals and wells, along with the Columbia, Yakima and Snake Rivers, supplies in these dry valleys with ample water to carefully control irrigation of their vineyards. The availability of water has transformed the Yakima into the largest and most productive wine regions in the Northwest.
Began its winery in 1983, in the basement of the old 1915 Schoolhouse No 41.
In 1996, production was expanded by the addition of a state-of-the-art facility built that year, while the winery's laboratory and red wine-barrel aging took over the basement.
A hands-on, traditional approach to winemaking includes a dedication to obtaining the highest quality fruits possible.
Maintaining its original focus on Merlot and Semillon, L'Ecole now also produces smaller, yet highly recognized, quantities of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc..
Annual Production: 16,000 casesVineyard Acreage: Partnership in 140 acres at Seven Hills Vineyard
L’ecole 41 – 1998 CAB
1998 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot $30.00 [Order]
This wine has a classic Cabernet nose, with aromas of eucalyptus, chocolate mint, and vanilla. The richly extracted fruit flavors provide a velvety texture that reveals well-balanced tannins in concert with cedary dark cherry and roasted nutty flavors.
Production: 6,000 cases/year Vineyards: 6 acres
History: Mount Baker Vineyards was started in 1978 by Al Stratton, a retired military man. He began making fruit wines as well as white wines from Germanic grapes. The winery was successful in negotiating a contract to ship plum wine to Japan, which helped the winery to grow for several years. In 1989, Stratton sold the winery and a small estate vineyard to Randy Finley, a businessman whose year-long vacation in France has whetted his appetite for the wine industry. (A larger vineyard was sold separately, and later the grapes were pulled out.) Finley took over winemaking duties, continuing with fruit wines and adding some traditional northwest varietals made from Eastern Washington grapes. He has also adopted new growing techniques with his estate vineyards, and will be planting Pinot Noir grapes soon (Pinot Gris was recently planted). The winery is also building a new warehouse for storage of barrels, empty tanks, and cases.
Mount Baker – 1998 CAB
Mount Baker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998
Cultivated in the intense heat of the southern part of the Yakima appellation; aged in oak.
finest vintages for aroma, body, flavor elegance and color. Rich and accessible now, excellent with steak, barbeque, hearty stews, pot roast, cheese and chocolate.
Gordon Brothers is located in the heart of the Columbia Valley in Washington State. We pride ourselves on superb, hand-crafted wines made from our own estate grown grapes.
Our history began in 1980 with the planting of the first grape plants in our current 95-acre vineyard. Our first release was 138 cases of '83 Chardonnay in 1985.
Portfolio include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Late Harvest Gewurztraminer, Syrah, a Gewurztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc blend called Spiceling, and our highly acclaimed Tradition, an opulent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Gordon Brothers – 1998 Merlot
WineTODAY.com 4 STARS Classic styled Columbia Valley Merlot (October 2000)
Winemaking Shortly after picking (during the second and third weeks of September). grapes were crushed into stainless steel tanks and yeasts were added for alcoholic fermentation. Following a short maceration and fermentation of seven to ten days, the must was pressed and the wine racked into oak barrels for a 13-month aging period. The use of French Oak enhances the elegance of the wine, while American oak adds a desired spicy note.
Winemaker Notes Deeply colored wine with attractive aromas of wild cherry, black currant, and blackberry. In the mouth the wine features a pleasant structure with rich tannins in the front, followed by a full body. Concentrated dark fruits, chocolate, and spicy oak.
The winery was voted "Best Winery for Value" in the Wine Spectator Reader's Choice Awards poll, the only non-California producer to win one of the survey's American wine categories. Columbia Crest earned a "Winery of the Year" designation from Wine & Spirits.
Vineyard Acreage: 2,500 vineyard acres Largest winery estate vineyard in the country